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The Lowdown: Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz of Faithless [Press Conference]

The Lowdown: Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz of Faithless [Press Conference]

Wednesday 19th September saw The Jazz Café, Camden host the incredible Maxi Jazz + Sister Bliss of Faithless

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Last Edited by: Jack Stovin October 8th, 2012.

There are living musical legends the world over, this is no secret.

Every solitary genre of music has its very own kings and queens who have managed to both permeate our minds with their genius, whilst also managing to completely turn the genre on its head, pushing every boundary possible along the way.

Faithless are a band who encapsulate this very movement.

Ever been in the presence and grace of music culture giants, whose raw innovative force and creative prowess literally saturate the entire space and all who exist within said space??

Wednesday 19th September saw The Jazz Café, Camden host the incredible Maxi Jazz and Sister Bliss of the electronica dance ensemble, collectively known as Faithless.

It was here that the internationally acclaimed band first played, way back in 1996, and it seems only fitting that it was also here where they were presented with the prestigious PRS for Music Heritage Award.

If you’ve followed Faithless from the beginning, you will know the influence and sway this anthemic band possess. They paved the way for live British dance acts, showing that it was indeed possible to combine euphoric atmospheres with magnetic stage presence whilst using real instruments; demonstrating natural musicianship - all wrapped up with spiritual flair as the metaphorical bow.

Totally at ease with their audience, the Faithless experience is an esoteric lesson, amplifying the (at times) elusive concept of unadulterated ‘oneness’.

The Jazz Café in itself claims its very own notoriety, a cult hit in its own right. Dark, intimate and quietly confident, it stands apart from other venues. You manage to gauge a real closeness with the artist(s) making the experience akin to a casual get together with your oldest friends…

This was the 11th PRS for music heritage award and they represent over 90000 artists worldwide, promoting the successes of home-grown British talent.

During the press conference, a plethora of insightful questions ensued. Humble, graceful and accommodating, the pioneers of house music elicited some equally insightful answers..
[Sister Bliss] "Dance music was really rubbished by the press and it kind of took a while for it to recover. Now look who’s having the last laugh."
Could you describe your first live gig here at the Jazz Café?

Maxi Jazz - "We had no idea who was going to come, we did the best we could, and people seemed to like it."

Within your music there are distinct reggae influences, especially within the baselines, who were some of your personal influences?

Maxi Jazz – "It’s really Rollo who you need to aim this towards, obviously we have lots of different influences, but it is Rollo who loves his reggae. For me personally, my influences were mainly old school reggae - Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, Rita Radditz – I could go on and on."

What are you guys working on now? What are your current projects?

Sister Bliss - "Just lots of new stuff! Which is exciting. I’m still writing with Rollo. We’ve got a few secret projects on the go which is really exciting – because nobody knows it’s us.

You know, as amazing as our nearly 20 year stint has been, it can also be a burden of expectation. We’re doing music that’s actually quite different to Faithless, so we’re not actually putting our names to it at the moment. We just allow people to love the music and sound, but we are getting props slowly, in an organic way.

That’s something that faithless taught us, is that people love to discover music, and there are bands everywhere right now.

It’s really different, its in your face. It’s the kind of era that we live in now, and you can think of the internet as a kind of accelerated word of mouth, which we didn’t have.

We had a sort of general word of mouth, a kind of steady growth in popularity, so were almost approaching this in a similar way. It’s collaborative and we’ll see where it goes. It is kind of between genres, and that’s the really important thing about Faithless.

In one way it sort of surprised me that they wanted to put a plaque outside the Jazz Café because there are so many more ‘jazzier’ sounding bands out there, but we’ve always had that sort of element within faithless. I’m really proud the people know us as a dance band, but actually there are a lot of influences right across many forms of music, so I love that we didn’t set out to be the sound of what was happening at the moment. We were actually sort of an antithesis to that, and not pinned down to just one thing."

If you had 3 tips to young musicians starting out in their careers, what would they be?

Maxi Jazz - "First tip would be, no matter what happens, or what anyone says you should do, don’t stop.

My second tip would be in terms of your career, a lot of young people are saying that they’re looking for management. I constantly say don’t worry with them. Go to your own business meetings. What you really need is a lawyer, and if you’re a musician they should give you one! So, you simply go and get your contract, talk to your lawyer about it, make up your mind about what you want out of the deal and go and renegotiate.

This way, when you are successful, you’re not going to have anyone try to pull the wool over your eyes.

Third tip; please do not settle. Make music for yourself. Make music that turns you on – never make music with others in mind, it sounds arrogant but that’s how it is. Absolutely please yourself first."

As a band, you’ve performed everywhere in the world, is there anywhere particularly special to you, other than the jazz café?

Maxi Jazz - "Yeah loads. Dozens, hundreds. However, we did one weekend in Puerto Rico… ask me why?? To this day I still don’t know why we were there, but it was the best live gig experience we’ve ever encountered."

Sister Bliss - "We did blow up the sound system!"

First of all, huge congratulations on the award – completely and fully deserved.

I was wondering - have there ever been any political or social motivations behind your music? Or have you simply wanted to act as a general catharsis for followers of underground dance music?

Maxi Jazz - "In terms of the lyrics, yes, it has always been a push, a direction if you like.

As a Buddhist, it has constantly been my aim to let people in on the secret. Buddhism is full of wisdom and I have learnt a lot through practicing and following. It is definitely something I have always wanted to do with Faithless.

An idea was to pass a lot of that on and so, yeah, it is political, if you like, by default.

But I guess I’m always trying to encourage individualism because I don’t really believe in conventional thinking.

If one person has a change of heart that’s it.

If you change your mind, you can always change it back again. But a change of heart? That’s a fundamental shift."

What’s your favourite song to play live?

Maxi Jazz - "Easily, 'Crazy English Summer.' We loved the collaboration and influence of Zoe Johnston’s vocals– feels good to play that live."

Are there any modern artists whose work and music artistry you are currently into?

Sister Bliss – "Sbtrkt I give props to. Interesting sound, beautiful voices, their sound is quite minimal; not overblown, not even trying to be commercial. I like them quite a lot.

I also really like Natasha khan’s new stuff (Bat for lashes).

I think she has really grown as an artist - her voice has just got something in it and so I can’t wait to here what’s next from her.

She’s an older artist but, you know, she is coming back. Completely representative of another artist who has got a lovely long career, I hope and one that’ll be around and last for a while."

How would you sum up your journey in one sentence?

Maxi Jazz - "I think it’s too early. You know, we’ve only really been stopped a year… Throughout the time with the band, but particularly now, I guess what it means to me is how much it has meant to other people. It’s this bit I still find astonishing.

You know, you write the lyric, on the same piece of couch you always write. The fact that you can go to places like Serbia, and have fans come up to you, not even having English as a second language, yet they know your sound, know your lyrics, that’s unreal.

Just by pleasing ourselves, we’ve managed to mean something to other people. I still find this quite shocking."

Are there any artists who you have huge respect for musically, who as yet, you’ve not managed to collaborate with?

Sister Bliss - "Erm (Laughs) lots of collabs! Loads. Sorry, you’ve put me on the spot! Lots more to come!"

You’ve been a really prominent female DJ and inspiration to female music artists worldwide. You’ve successfully toured the Electronic dance trail on your own. What is your advice for any emerging female DJ’s out there?

Sister Bliss - "Pretty much the same advice as Maxi: don’t give up and don’t succumb to what others want. Have a passion for what you’re doing because it can be quite tough and lonely with lots of travelling. You know weird hours and a lot of bullshit! All sorts of different goings on, but ultimately, you know, I’m just so incredibly passionate about electronic music/dance music and I always have been since I first herd it in sort of 1987/ 1988. It just did something to me. I just kind of had a one track mind with regards to doing that and also wanting people to hear my music loud! It wasn’t just about sort of prancing behind decks kind of on show it was much more of a kind of evangelical zeal.

I think succeeding in music in any genre, whether you’re a DJ or an artist or a writer, or whatever; you need a bit of an evangelical zeal.

Even if you have great moments of self doubt along the way - because there is so much out there that can knock you back and there are so many disappointments and difficult hurdles. There are obviously great things too! But I kind of just stuck with it.

I went through periods, well we all did, where people were saying “dance music is dead, forget about it”. Dance music was really rubbished by the press and it kind of took a while for it to recover. Now look who’s having the last laugh."

-- Claire Hudson for AltSounds.

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